The last time I discussed my dietary choices on this blog it was late 2011 and I was knee deep in ramen noodles. You see, when I first started this journey I decided to get pretty extreme with many of my expenses, and my food budget was one of the earliest victims. I temporarily sacrificed health for cost savings, and it’s a decision I actually don’t regret. While it wasn’t fun to eat ramen noodles for lunch every workday for a year straight, that level of frugality provided me an early springboard to save as much as I could while the stock market was still full of attractively valued stocks.
However, these days I’m eating much better overall, and my fitness has improved significantly as a result. I’ve heard from some readers that have openly expressed interest in my revisiting this subject since the old post is outdated and so much has changed since then. So today I’m going to divulge the details on exactly what I eat, what kind of calories are involved, and how much it costs. Obviously, I don’t eat the same exact thing every single day, so this will give you a rough idea of what my day-to-day diet looks like. And I’ll do my best to maintain accuracy when it comes to calories, as it was the adoption of this diet that helped me lose 18 pounds last year. It’s important to note, however, that a regular exercise routine has been imperative to my success.
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I have to admit that I eat much healthier during the week than I do once the weekend hits. I tend to allow myself to “cheat” and eat pretty much whatever I want on the weekends, most specifically on Saturdays. This gives my taste buds and body a much needed break, although it comes at an expense, as I generally spend much more money on weekends than I do during weekdays.
This is actually a dietary regimen that I’ve been using since I was a competitive bodybuilder back in my late teens. Eating strictly during the week tends to slow down your metabolism, and so cheating a bit during the weekends gives your metabolism a boost after the introduction of calories once more. This diet has been popularized somewhat by a Dr. Paul Rivas, who wrote a book on the subject titled: The Cheater’s Diet*. It works well assuming you stay strict during the week. If you’re unable to stick to a strict regimen during the week, then the cheating effect during the weekends loses its effect and purpose. Note: I’m not a dietitian and I’m not specifically recommending this diet.
The prices I’m quoting below are based on my real-world experiences. I typically shop at Walmart.
My weekday diet is pretty similar week in and week out:
I usually eat one bowl of granola-based cereal or oatmeal. I tend to alternate cereal and oatmeal from week to week so as to not get too tired of one or the other. This breakfast is typically low in calories, but provides lots of energy to start my day.
Two packets of Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar instant oatmeal with water: 320 calories, $0.50.
Lunch is almost always one Lean Cuisine entree (various flavors) and one Propel water (various flavors). It’s easy to microwave in the lunchroom at work, and also easy to carry around. As I eat lunch at work, it’s imperative that lunch be cheap, reasonably healthy, easy, and fast.
One Lean Cuisine box (Chicken Parmesan): 310 calories, $2.25
One bottle of Propel water (Black Cherry): 0 calories, $0.58
Dinner varies more than the other meals during the week, but not by too much. I work a lot; a typical workweek for me is north of 50 hours. And once I come home I’m extremely busy. Activities like blogging, working out, managing investments, and relaxing soak up what precious little time I have left at the end of the day. So dinner is meant to be quick and easy, while also being relatively healthy and affordable. As such, I’ll be honest and admit I eat my fair share of sandwiches. I don’t always eat sandwiches for dinner during the week, but I eat enough of them to highlight them as a standard for purposes of this article.
Two roast chicken and cheddar sandwiches, topped with Miracle Whip: 1,146 calories, $2.41
One bottle of Propel water (Black Cherry): 0 calories, $0.58
So there you have my typical Monday – Friday diet. Adding it all up, we’re looking at a total of 1,776 calories and $6.32 in costs per day, on average. Not too shabby! If I were to extrapolate that diet out over the entire month I’d probably lose even more weight and spend much less than I do, but the weekends are also a significant part of my caloric intake over the week, along with expenditures. It should be noted that Friday nights are sometimes counted as part of the weekend, so the weekday line occasionally cuts off after lunch Friday.
The weekends are pretty loosey-goosey, so I’m simply going to give you an example of what I might eat typically. No two weekends are necessarily the same. It really just depends on whether I’m at home or not, and Saturday nights in particular are reserved for the occasional restaurant visit – we typically eat at restaurants twice per month. This is a concession I make to my girlfriend, as my frugality can wear her down a bit.
My weekend diet is much more expensive and less healthy than what I eat during the week. Of course, it’s also much more fun:
I don’t always eat breakfast on weekends. I know: shame on me! But I dig my sleep, what can I say? It all really depends on what time I wake up. Saturdays are usually a good day to really sleep in as I’m extremely burned out after working from 6:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. pretty much straight through from Monday morning to Friday evening. However, my girlfriend likes to eat breakfast together on Sunday mornings. I’m going to include a typical Sunday morning breakfast as an example, but it’s not necessarily what I eat all weekend long. I would say, overall, my weekend breakfast costs and caloric intake are quite low.
Two pancakes with margarine and syrup as topping: 608 calories, $1.35
One 8 oz. glass of 2% milk: 122 calories, $0.25
Lunch is always eaten on the weekends, and again it may be my first meal of the day. It really all depends on what I’m in the mood for, as I don’t really limit myself in terms of caloric intake; however, frugality is always at the top of my mind when it comes to what I choose to eat. I’m going to include what I actually ate this past Saturday for lunch as it’s probably a pretty good example for any particular weekend.
One Hot ‘n Spicy McChicken sandwich: 380 calories, $1.07
One small Coca-Cola: 140 calories, $1.07
This is probably the meal that varies the most. As I mentioned above, we typically visit restaurants twice per month. However, on Sundays my girlfriend likes to cook a nice meal. So my weekend dinners vary probably as much as anyone else. I could include just about anything here, but I’m going to actually include what we ate last Saturday. We went to Applebee’s last weekend for the first time in many years, only because my girlfriend received a $25 gift card from work. So we put that to good use and ate pretty cheaply. I’m not going to include the gift card in my calculations here, but it’s important to note I always pay when we go out so my costs naturally double when restaurant expenses are calculated. I also always tip 20%. I waited tables in college, and I know how tough this job is. The costs you see below are taken from my actual receipt, including tax, tip, and divided in half for portions of the meal we shared.
1/2 serving of Queso Blanco – 525 calories, $5.12
One Chicken Fajita Rollup entree – 1,040 calories, $12.18
Two glasses of Pepsi – 200 calories, $2.49
1/2 serving of Brownie Bite dessert – 185 calories, $1.28
So there you have it. That’s my frugally fit diet. It actually hasn’t changed that much over the last few years, except for the fact that I kicked the cheap and unhealthy ramen noodles to the curb and exchanged them for Lean Cuisine meals. I know my diet could be improved in terms of my intake of processed food, but I’m not one of those organic food cheerleaders. I want cheap, quick, easy, and fairly healthy. And probably in that order. I don’t enjoy cooking even in the slightest, and my idea of torture is cooking a Sunday roast for two hours. But I will be honest and admit that one thing I’m really looking forward to is slowing down my meals once I’m financially independent. I enjoy good food, and my family loves to get together over long meals and talk over each other while we share news and make fun of each other. So I’m really looking forward to being able to do that more once I have the time.
I did want to include one nice resource before I end this post. For those of you interested in cooking cheap, healthy, tasty meals, I recommend visiting the site Budget Bytes. I’ve been by there a few times and I’m really impressed with the healthy meal ideas on the cheap. If I had any desire to cook whatsoever I’d be trying out some of the recipes from that site. In fact, I’ve showed my girlfriend some of the meals there and she’s already interested in trying out a few as she digs cooking.
How about you? Do you have a frugally fit diet? Enjoy cooking? Do you take time with food more than I do?
Thanks for reading.
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